How To Look Great In A Maxi Dress When Petite: 5 Easy Tips

petite brunette woman wearing a black maxi dress and carrying a black and tan raffia handbag

Those of us who are 5’4″ and under do have our dressing challenges. So many times we have an idea in our head that we can’t wear “XYZ” because we are short. The maxi dress is one of those things that I steered clear of for many years. I just didn’t feel like I would look good in all of that fabric at 5′.

If you are like me, the last thing that you want is to look shorter. Am I right? So I set out on a mission to find a dress that I felt I could rock. I knew that with a strategy the right maxi dress for my body type was out there. There is one for you too, I am sure of it. I’m going to break down some things to look for when shopping for a maxi dress. The length that usually looks best on petites. Necklines that help elongate. Also, how you can finish off your look with the right shoes and accessories.

Before we get into all of those details, there are some other posts from my blog on petite dressing and shoes that you might want to check out.

petite brunette woman wearing an orange maxi dress with a ruffled bottom

Dress is by Sachin + Babi and from previous season.

The Secret to Finding the Perfect Maxi Dress When You Are Petite

Ok, the maxi dress has been around for several seasons now, especially for summer months. So I don’t think that it is going anywhere anytime soon. They come in many styles, colors, and patterns. They can be very casual or they can be elegant enough to wear as a wedding guest dress. There’s just something easy and breezy about a maxi dress during the warm months. So let’s find a great maxi dress that you can’t wait to wear this summer.

Our first inclination is to look at retailers like Ann Taylor, Banana Republic, and J.Crew for petite maxi dresses. They always have a good selection of dresses that are made for petite bodies. However, this isn’t always the place that you are going to find the maxi dress of your dreams. The petite selections can be limited. Once you keep these easy tips in mind you will be able to open up your shopping parameters. I promise.

This article may contain affiliate links; if you click on a shopping link or a photo and make a purchase I may receive a commission. Thank you for shopping my links.

orange maxi dress on a brunette woman standing on a white porch 03

Details to Look for When Shopping For a Maxi Dresses

I know that I am all about minimizing my alterations bills. Most likely you are too or you wouldn’t be looking for tips to find a great maxi dress for petites. Sometimes we need to think outside the petite sizing box. Yes, the orange dress that I am wearing is not petite sizing. Believe it or not, I did not have to have it hemmed. My seamstress had to take up the shoulders on this dress. A pretty simple alteration that made it fit like a dream.

If I remember correctly this dress was a midi dress. That means it would be longer on me since I am only 5′. It checked all of my other boxes so I went for it and it worked. So here are the other boxes that it fit into and I am so glad it did.

The Right Length

So what is the right length for a maxi dress on a petite woman? Ideally, the hemline should be somewhere between ankle length and the top of your foot. You don’t want it to be too long so that you are stumbling over it, but you also don’t want to show too much leg.

Think of it this way, you can walk in it without fear of tripping over the dress. If it’s too long you will constantly be holding it up. That is not fun and not a great look. If your maxi dress is too short, then it can look boxy. Ultimately, you have to be comfortable with the exact length, but keep in mind between ankle length and top of your foot. This is a handy guide for how to measure dress lengths so you can compare it to dresses you have and some that you are shopping for.

This is why I say that if you can wear regular-size dresses up top and just need hemming you have expanded your shopping horizons. Yes, you can look for midi or calf-length dresses and most likely they will be maxi length on you. It is worth a try. So look for simple hemlines. Here are some examples that fall into that category.

Another online shopping tip when looking at midi or maxi dresses is to look at the size and fit or details sections. Many times they will tell you the height of the model. If it is a midi dress, then visualize the hemline however many inches shorter you are and then you will have a better idea of the length it will be on you. Make sense?

A Neckline That Elongates

Yes, ladies the v-neck neckline is our friend yet again. You want something that is open and elongates the upper body. That gives us the illusion of a longer torso. Not comfortable showing your decollate, then put a necklace in to help fill the space. Just make sure it follows the shape of the neckline.

Another trick to creating more openness with this type of dress is to pull your hair back or up somehow. Not all of us have that option due to the cut/style of our hair. However, if you have then length give it a try.

You can also look for one-shoulder dresses. Any neckline that will draw the attention up to your face just helps with the illusion of length and height. It could be asymmetrical or even a halter-style top.

Dress That Has Structure

Yes, you want to choose a maxi dress that has structure. The more fitted the dress is in the torso, the better. Also, you don’t want the bottom of the dress to be too wide or have too much volume. The dress will just overwhelm your petite frame.

If you can find a dress with an empire waistline, that is always good. They are usually very flattering on petite women. They project the illusion of longer legs. If you fall in love with a maxi dress that does not have a fitted waistline, then you can create one with a belt. Just be careful to keep the belt simple. You may opt for one that is the same color as the dress so that it appears to be a part of the dress.

Print Appropriate to Your Size

The size of prints is something that petite women always have to keep in mind. Yes, I love a fun, colorful print. However, they can overwhelm our bodies. I always ask myself these questions. Are people noticing the dress first and then me or do they notice how good I look in the dress?

That being said, solids or monochromatic looks are always a good choice for petites. A small horizontal stripe is also our friend. If there is a pattern to the fabric, just keep in mind how big the print is. You don’t want others seeing you from a mile away.

Petite Sized Maxi Dress For Your Closet

Dress|Sandals (use code Beth15 for 15% off)

Every once in a while we get lucky and some designers/retailers remember us and make some great maxi dresses in our size. If and when that happens, you should snatch one up at the beginning of the season. The good ones tend to fly off the shelves in the most popular sizes.

There are two brands that I have found to have a maxi dress in petite sizing that can be oh so good. Anthropologie and Boden. Even when ordering petite sizing you will still want to keep the above dress details in mind. I have ordered some petite maxi dresses and the prints are so large that they swallow me up. Here are some great petite maxi dresses that you will want to check out for this season.

Accessories that Work on Petites with Maxi Dresses

When it comes to accessories your options are pretty much limitless. Just remember the scale.

  • If the weather is cooler, you can add a cropped denim jacket or sweater.
  • For shoes, think sandals that elongate your foot. Wedges are always a good option if you want to wear heels with your maxi dress,
  • Have fun with earrings and bracelets. Earrings can be so fun in the summer especially if you choose to wear your hair back or up. Add a couple of bracelets for fun that accentuate the colors in the dress.
  • If it is a more formal or dressier dress, then bring out a simple gold or silver chair or even some pearls.

Yes, you can wear a maxi dress as a petite. You just have to find the right one.


Thanks so much for stopping by my blog today. I appreciate every read, share, and pin. If you know someone petite that you think would enjoy reading this, please forward it along.

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Updated April 2024.

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